Al Qaeda threatens Germany in second online video

BERLIN Sun Sep 20, 2009 11:05am EDT

BERLIN (Reuters) - Militant Islamist group al Qaeda threatened Germany with attacks for the second time this weekend in an online video criticizing the country for its deployment of troops in Afghanistan, authorities said on Sunday.

The interior ministry identified al Qaeda's messenger in the latest video as Bekkay Harrach, a German-Moroccan who also appeared in a separate clip on Friday warning Germany faced a "rude awakening" if it did not end its "war" in Afghanistan.

Television footage showed Harrach, who is 32 according to German media, wearing a mask in the latest video.

Harrach was clean shaven and wearing a suit and tie in the previous recording in which he directly addressed German Chancellor Angela Merkel, saying that attacks could follow Germany's federal election on September 27.

"In a democracy, only the people can order its soldiers home," Harrach said in German in the first video.

"If the German people decides for a continuation of the war, then it has passed judgment upon itself and showed the whole world that in a democracy civilians are not innocent after all."

Germany stepped up security at airports and train stations this weekend due to the heightened risk of attack, fearing that militant groups could use the election as a stage for strikes to punish Germany for its troop deployment in Afghanistan.

Of the five parties in Germany's Bundestag lower house of parliament, only the far-left "Linke" or Left Party is calling for an immediate troop pull-out from Afghanistan.

Unlike other European countries such as Britain or Spain, Germany, which has 4,200 troops in Afghanistan, has not experienced a major attack on home soil in recent years.

Domestic pressure on Germany to rethink its mission grew this month following a NATO air strike called in by German forces which left scores of people dead.

It took Merkel two years to visit Afghanistan after taking office in 2005 and she rarely mentions the mission there unless events on the ground demand a response as they did this week.

Until now, her government has refused to call the conflict a "war," instead selling it to voters as a humanitarian mission focused on civilian reconstruction and police training.

(Writing by Dave Graham; Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton)

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